Road gets narrower as Antrim visit Mullingar

Allianz Football League

Sun, Mar 5, 2023

Westmeath V Antrim

Round 5 TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar

The road to Mullingar, for those who have made it before is windy and narrow and for Antrim footballers, who play Westmeath there on Sunday the road to division 3 safety is getting narrower too.

A league campaign that has been more than descent in performances but failed to deliver the results those performances have merited sees them travel to Cusack Park in need of points as they look over their shoulder at Tipperary and Longford.

Those two drew last weekend to collect their first point of this year’s division 3 campaign with Antrim only a point above them following their win two weeks ago in Semple Stadium over Tipperary.

It could have been so much different with Antrim losing to both Down and Fermanagh by a single point having held what looked like substantial leads in both games. Failure to see out those games has been the Saffrons Achilles heel so they need to get something from Sunday’s visit to Westmeath.

Westmeath have had their own problems recently and threw away a seven point lead against Down last day out at Páirc Elser in Newry. Seven unanswered scores either side of the interval looked to have done the trick for the travelling Lake county only for Ceilum Doherty’s late brace and Andrew Gilmore’s insurance point to win it for Down.

Westmeath looked lively early on with Conor McCormack and Senan Baker supporting John Heslin who opened the scoring for Dessie Dolan’s side. The duo were effective from open play as well as on the scoresheet.

As the half progressed the shot selection on both sides dwindled. With scores and chances at a premium, Heslin stood up to give the Lake County the lead along with two immaculate free’s at the tail-end of the first half.

The hosts lost Eamon Brown to a black card and Dessie Dolan’s side made hay with three points in that period to deservedly lead 0-8 to 0-3 at the break

The fact that Down could come back to overturn that lead will be a worry for Westmeath but Antrim suffered a similar fate in their visit to Newry so Dessie Dolan and Andy McEntee find themselves with similar problems going into Sunday’s game.

Antrim and Westmeath last met at Corrigan Park in last year’s league campaign when, you’ve guessed it, Westmeath overturned a five point deficit into a three point winning margin in the second half. The Lake County were then able to push on and claim the win. It was John Heslin’s penalty that helped turn the game in Westmeath’s favour. 

Heslin is a man that will take some watching and he converted 0-4 from frees and added two from play last day out with Senan Baker and Conor McCormick others who impressed for the Lake County.

Antrim need to concentrate on their own game however and many aspects of it have been encouraging as the Saffrons have posted good totals at Pairc Esler and last day out against Fermanagh.

They hit three goals against Fermanagh to lead by 8 early in the second half but lost their way in the final quarter and this is something they will have to address if they are to begin their climb out of the relegation zone on Sunday.

Just what Antrim team will take the field will be important as injury has already deprived them of Paddy McBride, Jamie Gribbin and Adam Loughran while Ryan Murray missed the Fermanagh game and Marc Jordan, probably their best player to date, took a heavy knock against Fermanagh and looked in serious trouble as he left the field.

A number of the side are in their first season in an Antrim jersey but have acquitted themselves well but that lack of experience may have been a contributing factor to those nerves late in the game which have ultimately cost them points.

The Saffrons have shown that they have ability however and Sunday provides the opportunity to turn that ability into results and if they can cut out those unnecessary errors then I believe they can take something from their visit to TEG Cusack Park.

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